The above image is a lithography print by M.C Escher, called Relativity.
This could be seen as the modern representation of career progression.
It used to be that a common career progression would look like a linear path, where you enter the workforce at a junior level and advance in your career through promotions or change of roles to reach retirement and stop working. Sometimes employees would stay with the same employer throughout their whole career, or only change company a few times, and this was seen as a good thing.
Nowadays career paths can look very different and taking a more non-linear approach can get you where you want to be faster. Although the linear path is still respected, employers are much more open to alternative career paths where a more diverse range of experience and skills can be obtained that would be beneficial to the company. There is no longer the stigma that changing roles every few years, or taking time out to pursue other options, is seen as bad for your career progression. As it all really depends on what you can now bring to the current role with the experiences you have had, and the skills and knowledge gained.
Another benefit of a more non-linear career path is that it allows you try different things and can make your career progression more interesting and fulfilling. Each person is different and so a more non-linear career path might be more desirable to some than others and may also change at different times throughout life as personal circumstances change. For example, you might be more open and willing to travel for work or work in a different country when you are younger and have less personal responsibilities, or maybe this appeals more later on in your career when you have gained more experience and confidence.
The key is to get curious about what it is you want from your career and what interests you. And if you aren’t sure what you want, then analyse your strengths to see where you can give value to different roles, or where you have a strong desire to learn more and so you can grow into roles. Being flexible and open to different opportunities could lead you to even greater opportunities and experiences you might never have thought were possible.
Talk to others in roles you might aspire to and ask about their career progression, as you may find some quite different career paths they took. Networking has many benefits and one of them is learning about other people and their career progressions, as well as learning about a variety of different roles and opportunities that you might not have thought of.
Give it a go
Gaining different experiences and learning what you do and don’t like doing can often come from trying different roles, maybe even some you aren’t sure of but seem like a good opportunity. Some people prefer to be part of a team, whereas others want to be leaders of teams, or work alone. You may prefer technical work or more dealing with people, either within the company you work or with clients, or like the variety of both. But often you won’t know unless you try different roles, and you may surprise yourself with what you do like. And if you don’t like a particular aspect, it is still all experience that can be used in the future.
Variety in experience
These days where employers and clients are looking for more than technical skills, the people skills and other personal development skills and experience gained can be valuable. And this could come from more alternative experience to the traditional actuarial roles. Be open to opportunities that might gain you other experience and be of interest to you. This could be just volunteering for different committees in or outside of work without having to change role.
You will gain different experiences working for small vs large companies; Insurers, Reinsurers or Consultancies; Start-ups or more established companies. Or branch out to Government statistical agencies, new technology driven companies, or even gambling companies that analyse statistics! The possibilities are endless.
We have met some people who came to their actuarial careers later in life and are worried how they can compete for roles, but analytical and people skills can be transferred from other industries, as well as other experiences gained, and can make up for the lack of direct actuarial experience. And vice versa, the knowledge and experiences from actuarial roles can also be transferred to other industries or non-typical actuarial roles within the insurance sector. Don’t be afraid to pursue different opportunities if they interest you, as you never know where they might lead to. You can always come back to more usual actuarial roles if needed – good actuaries and analysts are always wanted!
A World of Opportunity
With the advances in technology and the increasing ease of gaining information, accessing opportunities from around the world and connecting with different people, it is easier than ever to have a more fulfilling career progression. Whether that is through the more traditional career path, exploring a variety of roles, or even creating your own opportunities, you can add value and gain useful and interesting experiences along the way. You may even find that you don’t want to retire you are enjoying what you are doing so much having created the life and work you desire.
Written by Jas Singh, Kate Bleakley and Ann Obcemia